Judi Henderson-Townsend is the founder and CEO of the largest Black-owned supplier of mannequins known as Mannequin Madness. Judi started her company in 2001 as a side hustle renting out mannequins from her backyard.
Growing up, Judi never thought of selling mannequins nor was entrepreneurship something she considered. However, she got into renting mannequins after meeting the owner of the only mannequin rental company in the Bay Area. Judi found out that he was leaving town. In time, she bought all of his inventory, according to Black Business.
Judi had no prior experience in the retail industry or working with mannequins. With a degree in journalism from the University of Southern California in addition to over 20 years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies, she had had a brief stint at a dot com, and a craigslist post changed everything for her. Yet, it was after she lost her job after 9/11 that she decided to take a chance at her mannequin side hustle.
“One month after the 9/11 tragedy, the dot-com startup I worked for declared bankruptcy and laid everyone off. Although this was a fearful time, I resolved to live more fearlessly and do what I loved,” she said.
Her mannequin business was still fledgling and not self-supporting at the time, but Judi said she took a leap of faith and decided to make it her full-time business.
Judi also launched an e-commerce website and started shipping mannequins all over the country. She subsequently expanded her inventory to include new as well as used mannequins and started using various mannequin vendors as drop shippers.
Today, Judi is generating millions of dollars in selling and renting mannequins, earning her the nickname the ‘Jay-Z of Mannequins.’ “My clients include everybody from struggling fashion students to high-end department stores,” she said during an interview on Curious Business.
According to Black Business, Judi’s firm has recycled over 400,000 pounds of mannequins, and thanks to the company’s success, she has won various prestigious awards such as the Special Achievement Award from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Living History Maker Award from Wells Fargo Bank.
Also, Judi has four employees, four contractors, and a warehouse. But the mannequin business has not been smooth sailing for Judi. According to her, one of her major challenges was taking herself seriously. She had to get used to the idea of now making a living out of renting and selling mannequins.